US considers tougher strategy against Iran

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US President Donald Trump could implement a new strategy against Iran involving a tougher US stance against Iran’s forces and proxies in the region.

According to current and former US officials, an inter-agency review of Iran policy has been presented to President Trump that was prepared by Defence Secretary Jim Mattis, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, national security adviser HR McMaster and other top officials. The new policy could be agreed and publicised before the end of September.

According to Reuters, the inter-agency review is intended to increase the pressure on Tehran to curb its ballistic missile programmes and support for proxies. A senior administration official said the review is “a broad strategy for the range of Iranian malign activities: financial materials, support for terror, destabilisation in the region, especially Syria and Iraq and Yemen”.

President Trump has reportedly told his advisors in the past few days that he wants to get tougher on Iran. US officials have been discussing the new policy with European leaders ahead of today’s deadline for the US administration to issue a waiver suspending nuclear-related oil sanctions as required under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and ahead of the next quarterly deadline, on 15 Oct, for the Trump administration to certify to Congress whether Iran is complying with the nuclear deal.

There is disagreement within the Trump administration as to whether the US should stick with the JCPOA. One US official said “the main issue for us was to get the President not to discard the JCPOA. But he had very strong feelings, backed by Nikki Haley, that they should be more aggressive with Iran. Almost all the strategies presented to him were ones that tried to preserve the JCPOA but lean forward on these other (issues)”.

On Monday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clarified that Israel’s position “is straightforward. This is a bad deal. Either fix it — or cancel it”.

Trump and Netanyahu will meet in New York on Monday during the UN General Assembly. There are also plans for a ministerial meeting during the UN General Assembly of the six countries (Russia, China, US, UK, France, and Germany) and Iran that negotiated the 2015 nuclear deal.